A Purely Statistical NBA Power Ranking
Subjectivity is overrated. Sometimes, the opinions of experts are wonderful resources that can help inform a debate, but there is nothing like some cold hard numbers to help glean insight about which NBA teams are playing the best.
For these stat-based power rankings, we looked at which teams have performed best in terms of net rating (points scored per 100 possessions minus points allowed per 100) since January 1, according to NBA.com.
30. Charlotte Bobcats: -11.9
After winning three games in January, the Charlotte Bobcats have only won twice in February. But, hey, cut them some slack.
It is a short month after all.
29. Sacramento Kings: -10.5
What happens on the court means nothing to Sacramento Kings fans this year.
The mission is much larger. As as long as they continue to hold off the ownership group hordes from the north to keep this team in California's capital, this season will remain a success.
28. Orlando Magic: -10.3
The Orlando Magic are 2-17 over their last 19 games, but their trade deadline deal to acquire Tobias Harris is paying dividends.
In his two games in Orlando, he has scored 30 points while making 12-of-19 shots off the bench. Throw in 13 rebounds and the fact that the team is 1-1 since his arrival, and the Magic may have found something in what seemed to be a meager return for J.J. Redick.
27. Phoenix Suns: -8.6
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: -6.1
The Minnesota Timberwolves have gone just 2-6 at home in February and have fared no better on the road (1-3). Injuries must be factored into any discussion involving the Wolves, and the emergence of Derrick Williams in the past two weeks has been a bright spot.
But, really, it has just become sad at this point.
The team heads to Los Angeles on Thursday for a nationally televised game on TNT, in which they will presumably only become newsworthy for being another team that helps the Lakers climb their way back toward .500.
25. Philadelphia 76ers: -5.8
Doug Collins has had enough. After a blowout loss to the Orlando Magic, according to Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, he candidly laid out what the problem was: his players aren't ready to play.
This Andrew Bynum-less season is no longer salvageable for the Philadelphia 76ers, and it looks like the front office will have another major decision to make after figuring out if Bynum is worth all the money he will likely demand.
Now the executives need to determine if Collins can come back to coach these players.
24. Portland Trail Blazers: -4.8
A win over the Boston Celtics last weekend was the first for the Portland Trail Blazers in 18 days.
Six of the seven losses came on the road. But no matter what the schedule throws at you, there is no excuse for a seven-game losing streak.
23. Detroit Pistons: -4.8
Nothing sums up the experience of watching the Andre Drummond-less Detroit Pistons like their performance in a home/home back-to-back they played against once-rival Indiana Pacers last Friday and Saturday nights.
They lost both games by a combined 50 points.
With their promising young center sidelined with a tailbone fracture, there is almost no reason to watch this team play.
22. Golden State Warriors: -3.5
The Golden State Warriors bucked a six-game losing streak by winning three straight recently, including a victory over the San Antonio Spurs. While the team still has a long way to go if it hopes to regain its early-season success, there seems to be some hope.
But you know things are bad when a shoving match during an 11-point loss to the Indiana Pacers is the only thing that can reinsert your name back into the national conversation.
21. Milwaukee Bucks: -1.9
The Milwaukee Bucks are hoping a trade for J.J. Redick can reignite a spark into their fading season.
With a six-game edge over the Toronto Raptors in the loss column, it seems highly unlikely that Milwaukee could fall out of the playoffs, but the Raps are ripping off wins these days and stranger things have happened.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers: -1.2
The Cleveland Cavaliers may not have a ton going for them, but, in Kyrie Irving, they employ the best player on any of the teams listed so far.
As we saw on full display throughout All-Star weekend, Irving is a special talent who will be launched into superstardom as soon as he gets a few teammates who can help him win some games.
19. Los Angeles Lakers: -0.9
As Kevin Pelton breaks down for ESPN, the Los Angeles Lakers likely need to go at least 15-9 the rest of the way to make the playoffs. That may seem attainable, but if the Utah Jazz play well (which could happen) and the Houston Rockets continue to thrive (which seems likely), L.A. may need to finish closer to 18-6.
If we look at the team's full-season play, that first possibility is a stretch, and the second feels like it would take a miracle.
18. New Orleans Hornets: -0.6
It's still a struggle to find wins for the New Orleans Hornets, but their highest-profile player is enjoying a nice stretch of health and starting to discover some consistency.
Anthony Davis has three double-doubles in his last six games, plus another outing of 20 points (on 14 shots) and eight rebounds.
He still isn't dominating every night, but he has a good chance to end the season on a high note.
17. Utah Jazz: 0.4
The Utah Jazz need to get it together if they want to make the playoffs. So far, just pointing and laughing at the Los Angeles Lakers has been all they've needed to do to hold their ground.
But it now looks they will need to string together some wins.
Fortunately for them, they start off March with three games against the Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers.
If that can't jump-start a run, I'm not sure what to tell ya.
16. Atlanta Hawks: 0.5
This has been such an Atlanta Hawks season. They sat at 19-9 on December 29 after a convincing defeat of the Indiana Pacers.
Since then? They're a game below .500.
They play in the Eastern Conference, so this hasn't caused them to fall out of the fifth seed. But if that holds and they manage to win a first-round matchup, the Miami Heat will be eating bird stew in the conference semifinals.
15. Toronto Raptors: 0.5
If you told me a team would trade for Rudy Gay, and it would completely turn around their season, I would politely ask you to please put down the whiskey. But the 23-34 Toronto Raptors are 7-4 since Gay arrived via trade.
His scoring efficiency leaves a ton to be desired, but sometimes an injection of life means more than stats. The team will need a total collapse by the Milwaukee Bucks to make the playoffs, but that it is a possibility is amazing considering where this team was a month ago.
14. Washington Wizards: 1.1
A team with a roster like this is supposed to struggle on the road, but its staunch defense (96.9 points allowed per 100) and high-octane scoring (106.5 points per 100) during this stretch have given fans reason to think that next season can be a lot better.
13. Chicago Bulls: 1.2
The ongoing delay of Derrick Rose's return means that this team may not be able to make the playoff splash it hoped. But if he can regain something close to his old form before the postseason, the framework of success may still be there.
The team has the fourth-best defense in the NBA this year on a points-per-possession basis, according to Basketball-Reference, and its recent struggles should not cause too much concern.
A 4-8 record in February is definitely troubling, but the Bulls have played nine of those games on the road, and nine have come against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
12. Brooklyn Nets: 1.6
The Brooklyn Nets continue to be one of the most frustrating teams in the NBA. Some nights they look fantastic; others they look like they could get swept in a playoff series.
But with Deron Williams on a productive stretch since returning from injury and Brook Lopez bringing consistency in the middle, the team may truly be on the right track this time.
11. Los Angeles Clippers: 2.4
The Los Angeles Clippers are beating all comers and look to have regained their early-season form. Blake Griffin is an absolute problem for the opposition, and his 59.5 percent shooting in February has not received nearly enough attention.
The team's struggles when Chris Paul was sidelined with injury may have worried some onlookers, but his return has only confirmed how high this team's ceiling is when the best point guard on the planet is running the show.
10. New York Knicks: 2.8
The New York Knicks have already clinched a playoff berth, which is the good news. But they have now lost five of their last seven dating back to February 6, which is not the good news.
The solution isn't hard to detect: They need to shoot better.
The Knicks have shot just 41.3 percent in their last seven games, including a woeful 29.3 percent from three-point range. For a team who has averaged 27.3 attempts from behind the arc during this stretch, that is simply unacceptable.
9. Memphis Grizzlies: 3.0
The Memphis Grizzlies' slim title hopes may have been completely erased when they traded Rudy Gay, but their defense and interior attack ensure that they will be a tough out in the playoffs.
And, hey, they might have even gotten better.
Memphis is now on an seven-game winning streak, and the upcoming schedule makes it look like the the team should have little trouble winning five or six of its next seven games.
8. Houston Rockets: 3.2
The Houston Rockets play at the quickest pace in the league, and while that has been the cause of all their success, coach Kevin McHale, in entertaining fashion, recently admitted that it is tough to sustain, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
They all say they want to run until they run, and running's hard. Do you run to get the mail? Do you run to throw your toast in the toaster? No one likes running. It's hard to do. They just don't want to run. All players say they want to run. When you really start running, there are few players who really want to run.
Still, the team is full of young players, and James Harden can do just about everything short of moving boulders with his mind. This team is simply tough to play against.
7. Boston Celtics: 3.6
Here come the Boston Celtics. While everyone has discussed their recent surge in terms of what it means about Rajon Rondo, the Celtics' slow starts followed by late-season pushes have become an annual landmark at this point.
Without their best player, it seems unlikely that Boston could make real noise in the playoffs. But every time someone has counted out this team in the Kevin Garnett era, it has been premature.
6. Dallas Mavericks: 4.0
The Dallas Mavericks' appearance so high here is the biggest surprise on this list, and I really can't explain it other than with these two words: Dirk Nowitzki.
But he didn't even play all that well (for him) in his first month back, so I'm at a loss.
5. Denver Nuggets: 6.3
Nobody wants to play the Denver Nuggets in Colorado. They are 24-3 at home and haven't lost on their own floor since January 18.
A road skid this month led to a few disappointing losses in mid-February, but the team plays many of its toughest opponents in Denver next month, so we may see its impressive record improve even further as the postseason draws closer.
4. San Antonio Spurs: 8.9
Nobody can stop the San Antonio Spurs from scoring. They have put up 104.1 ppg in their last 10 games while shooting 48.2 percent.
In related news, they have won eight of these 10 games.
Tony Parker is playing as well as anyone in the league not named LeBron James or Kevin Durant, and Tim Duncan is having his best season in years. With the best coach in the NBA at the helm, there is no reason to think this team will stumble.
3. Indiana Pacers: 9.5
The best defensive team in the league has learned how to score. The Indiana Pacers are averaging 107.6 ppg during their current five-game winning streak, and their last 10 wins (over their last 12 games) have all been by double digits.
Some of the damage has come against dregs (the Detroit Pistons twice, the Charlotte Bobcats), but Indiana can also boast victories over the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors in February.
There isn't a team in the league that is harder to score against, and there isn't an Eastern Conference team other than Miami that looks like it could hang with Indiana in a seven-game series right now.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: 10.5
The only thing that appears to be standing in the way of the NBA Finals rematch the whole world wants to see is time.
The Oklahoma City Thunder continue to score on everyone while also playing high-level defense, and the team's dynamic duo can't be contained, let alone stopped.
Kevin Durant is the second-best player in the NBA, and his lil' buddy Russell Westbrook is shooting 50.6 percent in February.
Good luck, rest of the Western Conference.
1. Miami Heat: 11.9
The champs remain the team to beat, and nothing is going to change that.
After their double-overtime win over the Sacramento Kings, LeBron James, talking about the team's 12-1 record in February, threw out what should be seen as a warning shot to the rest of the league, according to Michael Wallace of ESPN. "This is what we've been talking about," James said. "I told you guys a while ago that we needed one of these months."
Of LeBron's 40 points and career-high 16 assists—not to mention Dwyane Wade's 39 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks—Heat coach Erik Spoelstra summed up everybody's thoughts: "Those are video-game numbers."
Be afraid, NBA. Be very afraid.